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Senegal secures its sealine

AAP initiative finds solutions for key areas at risk of coastal erosion By Barry Abdoulaye

AbdoulayeLocated 80 kilometres south of Dakar, the Saly seaside resort area is perhaps Senegal’s most popular and profitable tourist attraction. Hundreds of thousands of tourists, mostly European, visit the country to holiday there, drawn by the year-round sunny weather and beaches of fine white sand. But in the last few years, the ocean that had been an accomplice in leisure became destructive; its waves began to swallow up sand from the beach and damage the hotels. In May, management of the Filaos Hotel, one of the largest in the area, had to evacuate guests from rooms closest to the sea when waves threatened to flood them.It soon transpired that the beach in front of 10 major hotels, beach the national beach soccer team trained on just three years ago, had widely eroded and even disappeared in some places.

Dr Jean Laurent Kaly, a geographer and Coordinator of Coastal Climate Change Adaptation, a programme working in the Joal and Palmarin areas south of Saly, attributes the region’s coastal erosion to rising sea levels caused by global warming, with the problem exacerbated by development along Senegal’s south coast. Dr Kaly says the mushrooming of cities along the coast hinders the natural retention and absorption of rainwater. Coupled with wastewater, this increases the volume of water running into the ocean. And as the west African coastline is typically comprised of broad, sandy beaches it is more vulnerable than most to erosion.

The hotels of Saly have found new hope thanks to an initiative supported by the AAP. Given the rate of degradation and the amount of revenue at stake, the Saly coast was earmarked as a priority for intervention at the outset of the AAP. Along with protecting a valuable economic resource the intervention was to be a pilot project demonstrating a successful approach to protecting particular stretches of coast.

‘Senegal has over 700km of coast on which an economy, made frailer by the day because of sea encroachment, is leaning,’ says AAP Senegal Project Manager Babacar Diouf. ‘There is an urgent need to tackle this issue so that we don’t annihilate the notable efforts that have been made in sectors such as tourism and fishing.’

To protect the stretch of beach in Saly a plan was made to build a protective rock-wall slightly beyond the waterline. The operation would cost slightly more than $160,000 with the AAP paying $103,000, the resort owners contributing $30,000, resort management body the Société d’Aménagement de la Petite Côte paying $20,000 and the Saly city council chipping in $10,000. Engineers from the Senegalese military, who oversaw the project and trained locally-recruited staff, were provided free of charge.

‘AAP Senegal’s decision to support the project was justified by the existence of a national plan on coastal erosion,’ said Babacar, in reference to the Government’s 2008 Integrated Coastal Management Plan, which inventoried all engineering works required to protect the coast and which the Saly building works are aligned with.

‘One should bear in mind the demonstrative aspect of these AAP Senegal-supported building works. They are aimed at showing the way forward and at convincing even the most sceptical of the relevance of acting quickly to avoid harvesting the fruit of inaction, which would, according to the studies done, be much more costly.’

One part of a wider programme

The fight against coastal erosion is one of five strategic priorities of AAP Senegal, says Babacar. The other four are establishing regional inter-institutional coordination mechanisms; the completion of vulnerability studies for key sectors of the national economy; climate change training, awareness raising and communication targeting key stakeholders, and; providing equipment and capacity development for national structures responsible for climate change.

A lot has been achieved in each of these areas. On the final priority, for example, technical and meteorological equipment has been provided to the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research, the National Weather Service, the Water Resources Management and Forecasting Directorate, the Centre for Air Quality of the Environment Directorate. The equipment will be used to monitor the weather better and to use the information acquired to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies.

A small team of six people is carrying out this important work. It is managed by Babacar who is supported by two experts—one a specialist in climate change the other in coastal management—as well as an administrative and financial officer, his assistant and a management assistant.

Leading by example

Now, after 75 days of work on a project initiated and coordinated by the AAP, 750 meters of beach in Saly has been secured against the changing waters. The results were immediately noticeable once the work was complete, and in the time following the beach has begun to regenerate. ‘Had the construction work not been done, our hotels would have begun to disappear by now,’ says Ibrahima Sarr, one of the Filaos hotel managers.

By bringing together and raising funds from all entities concerned about the erosion and likely to benefit from the work, this project demonstrated the efficiency of public-private partnerships. It also illustrated a process for the creation of synergies between public and local authorities and private operators, who were each threatened or concerned about the issue but unlikely to take action on their own. Tourism revenue from the resorts was saved, but a bigger achievement was the resort owners gaining awareness and belief in coordinated responses to coastal erosion.

‘Following the success here in Saly we travelled to Japan and next door to Gambia to learn about similar activities to ours and how successful they were,’ says Babacar Sy, Manager of the Société d’Aménagement de la Petite Côte.

Activities initiated since the conclusion of the AAP-sponsored work demonstrate the success of this approach. The managers of the Filaos hotel have recruited the same team that carried out the seawall construction to do a $90,000 extension. Using the pilot project as a model, state authorities are planning a more ambitious project consisting of an elaborate system of several constructions to protect the entire Saly resort area. Studies for this major project have been completed and the Government recently issued a call for tenders.

The hotel owners are happy with the state’s efforts and hope they will be maintained to see all of Saly’s fine white sand beaches restored and secured. Doing so would protect what the Société d’aménagement de la Petite Côteestimates to be 3000 direct jobs such as hotel staff and 9000 indirect jobs such as fishermen, fruit and vegetable sellers, artists and craftspeople.

The encroachment of the sea had Saly residents concerned, but today a different mind-set prevails. The seawall created through the AAP has given new faith to the community of workers here and all are hoping the government’s extended project starts soon.

Barry Abdoulaye is a journalist for Senegalese Television and was a participant in the AAP Media Capacity Building Project’s training of climate journalism trainers in Nairobi earlier this year.

This article is available at

For the French Version of this article, please check here

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